Seahawks report cards for each member of the secondary
By Lee Vowell
The Seahawks secondary was young in 2018 and made younger by the loss of Earl Thomas early in the season. How did the unit grade?
Let’s put (most likely former) Seahawks safety Earl Thomas aside for now. He was injured in week four and did not have a big impact on the season. Seattle’s secondary, once the feared Legion of Boom, basically had to reset the group this year. And the unit had mixed results.
Seattle’s secondary wasn’t terrible but it certainly wasn’t at the level of previous seasons. Seattle allowed a passer rating of 94.3 which was 19th in the NFL in 2018. This was Seattle lowest ranking since 2010. Or since cornerback Tre Flowers was 15 years old.
But how much was really expected of a group that for most of the year consisted of corners Flowers, Shaquill Griffin and Justin Coleman and safeties Bradley McDougald and Tedric Thompson? 12s had no idea how good or bad Flowers would be, didn’t know how good Griffin would be at left corner, weren’t sure if Thompson was even worth an NFL roster spot and didn’t expect McDougald to be near-great. There were a lot of unknowns.
It is really difficult to say this group exceeded expectations because no one really knew what to expect. Would Thomas have made the group better? Yes. Is he returning to Seattle? No. He doesn’t want to be with the Seahawks anymore and the way he left the field in week four the Seahawks shouldn’t want him back.
Here are the grades for the core that made up the secondary for most of 2018.
Shaquill Griffin, left cornerback
Griffin was a bit underwhelming this year. He did have two interceptions but those came in one game early in the season. Griffin got beat on a touchdown pass in tight coverage against the Cowboys in the playoffs, too. It isn’t a question of Griffin getting beat in tight coverage; The simple fact is that number one corners shouldn’t get beat in big games. Griffin isn’t a number one corner yet and his 113.2 passer-rating against proves that. For the Seahawks to be a better team in the future, Griffin needs to be better as well.
Tre Flowers, right cornerback
I wrote about this earlier, but Flowers got much better as the season wore on. He did give up an opposing passer-rating of 110 but he allowed just five touchdown receptions against him. As the season went on, however, his passer-rating against improved and his targets declined. My feeling is that he is much better in 2019 and could develop into a very good cornerback. He isn’t great yet, but he was also just learning how to be a corner and doing it while playing in the NFL.
Justin Coleman, slot corner
Coleman was good once again as Seattle’s slot corner. His 81.0 passer-rating allowed ranked 20th in the NFL. He can walk this year and maybe make bigger dollars but slot corners aren’t the highest paid. Seattle should make every effort to sign Coleman to a three-year extension this offseason
Tedric Thompson, free safety
Thompson was solid and showed he could be a good tackler in open space, but he doesn’t transform the defense. I am not expecting him to be Thomas, of course, but he may not be the long-term answer at starter with the Seahawks. In fact, Delano Hill played just as well as Thompson late in the year when Thompson missed some time with injury.
Bradley McDougald, strong safety
Early in the season, McDougald was graded as one of the five best safeties in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. McDougald didn’t maintain that extremely high level of play but he was still very good and played at a near-Pro Bowl level. In 2018, McDougald had three interceptions, three forced fumbles and four tackles-for-loss. It is a good thing he signed a multi-year extension with the Seahawks last offseason.